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When one southern pastor saw his congregants dying of preventable illnesses that could be traced back to poor eating habits and lack of exercise, he got fed up and did something about it.

“It was so bad, I was having a funeral every weekend,” said Dr. Michael Minor, pastor at Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Hernando, Mississippi. So he banned fried chicken and sugary drinks from church potlucks.

“You can see the difference. People are much better sized, way better. And once they get it off, they want to keep it off,” he told Reuters.

A 2011 study by Northwestern University that tracked 2,433 men and women for 18 years observed that adults of “normal weight,” ages 20 to 32 years with a high frequency of religious participation were 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age.

Due to church culture, many saints make a habit of going out to eat after worship service and serving up high-fat soul food meals in fellowship halls.

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